Between the Eisenhower Tunnel and C-470
The worst part of driving to Denver on a time-budgeted business trip has to be all the outdoor adventure opportunities that slip by at 70 miles per hour out the window.
Let’s take a closer look, exit by exit.
Barely three miles from the Eisenhower Tunnel is an unnamed exit that serves absolutely no other purpose than to access the Herman Gulch Trailhead. This Continental Divide Trail access point leads to a beautiful cirque under a string of thirteeners and Herman Lake. Known as a great hiking destination, it’s also open to mountain bikes.
While Bakerville consists of little more than an unattached chimney, the primary reason to jump off the highway here is to climb Grays and Torreys peaks from the east. And, if the fourteeners aren’t enough, a handful of technically difficult thirteeners await, too – like Kelso Mountain.
Welcome to the small, kitschy little hamlet of Georgetown. For a leisurely, downright lazy, experience, try taking an excursion on the Georgetown Loop Railroad, a unique trip through the history of mining in the Clear Creek Canyon. There’s also Guanella Pass and the fourteener Mount Bierstadt and the great four-wheel drive and mountain bike possibilities near Argentine Pass.
U.S. Highway 40 leads to Winter Park, the self-proclaimed Mountain Bike Capital U.S.A., as well as the back way into Rocky Mountain National Park.
Its name is Fall River Road but, more importantly, this exit leads to St. Mary’s Glacier, the closest place to both Summit County and Denver to ski in August, as well as a source of countless miles of trails criss-crossing the Continental Divide and the Arapaho Range, the dramatic crest of mountains visible on the drive to Summit County from Denver.
Mount Evans Road not only leads directly to the summit of the closest fourteener to Denver, but also provides a wonderful road bicycling opportunity to Evergreen over Squaw Pass.
At this point, we’re roughly halfway to the outskirts of the big city.
At exit 244 is that odd, left-hand exit onto U.S. 6. Assuming you’re not bored enough to drive all the way to Cape Cod (which is where Route 6 eventually winds up), stop for a minute in the most scenic parts of Clear Creek Canyon. Try some rock climbing or advanced whitewater along the very creek that fills Coors beer.
Beaver Brook leads to hiking trails and bikeable roads in the fantastic foothills.
El Rancho leads to the Evergreen Parkway, and you can find great launching points for mountain biking in Bergen Park or Three Sisters/Evergreen Mountain Park, both part of the elaborate Denver Mountain Parks system.
Genesee Park is a great trail system for hiking with fabulous views of the divide in one direction and the High Plains and Denver in the other.
Only two miles beyond is exit 256 and Lookout Mountain, providing access to the tops of Mount Falcon, Apex and Lookout Mountain parks, where awesome views of the metro area await.
There’s a good chance that no other exit in the nationwide Interstate system is so fabulously endowed with mountain biking opportunities. Within just a few minutes drive of this off-ramp are the lower trailheads for Mount Falcon, Apex and Lookout Mountain parks, as well as White Ranch, Matthews/Winters and Hayden/Green Mountain parks.
And let’s not neglect Hogback Park, home to what is arguably Denver’s most technical mountain biking trail, Dakota Ridge.
And last, but not least, before disappearing into the urban jungle, is C-470. From here, the southern Front Range parks like Deer Creek Canyon can be accessed, and so can the Denver terminus of the Colorado Trail, found on the Platte River just south of Chatfield State Recreation Area.
This just barely scratches the surface of everything waiting between here and there.
A quick glance at pages 38, 39 and 40 of the “Colorado Atlas and Gazetteer” reveals place-names like Mount Goliath Natural Area, Golden Gate Canyon State Park, the Indian Peaks and Mount Evans wilderness areas, and so much more.
So be sure to keep all this in mind the next time you head down to the capital city of Colorado.
Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at
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